“It is very common to find students and teachers alike resort to
the forcible application of strength in order to make a technique work.”
In the last several years, I have becomed focused on a number of areas that I have identified as commonly lacking in training and deserving of the attention of aikido instructors. I regard these problem areas as widespread across styles and detrimental to the development of the art. Among my observations — voiced here and elsewhere — are the following:
- In training, it is very common to find students and teachers alike resort to the forcible application of strength in order to make a technique work. This increases the risk of dojo injuries.
- Most dojo training is reactive in nature. By that I mean, the common dojo training paradigm involves uke initiating the attack and nage responding. This practice is suitable for the beginning student as a way to learn the mechanics of a technique, but breeds bad habits in more advanced practitioners who attempt to execute flowing techniques. Nage’s response time is too limited due to lack of initiative and sloppy execution of technique can result.
- Training unfolds with little attention given to breaking uke’s balance. As a result, as the technique is executed, uke may have opportunities to hinder, stop, or counter nage’s technique. One solution to this problem is to stress the importance of nage operating from uke’s blind spot — diagonally to the rear — in order to safely execute techniques.
- Many practitioners are not in sufficiently good physical condition to execute some of aikido’s more advanced techniques that require above-average body flexibility and agility.
- Few students understand the concept and methods of locking uke’s body structure to break his balance, and apply techniques and pins. This allows aikido’s devastating techniques to be practiced safely as undue force become unnecessary. For example, assume you’re applying a nikyo. Instead of applying force to the wrist joint, causing pain and risking injury, you immobilize the entire arm to shoulder structure which in turn “locks” the body. From there, a simple hip lowering will cause uke to fall, but without injury.
- There is a lack of awareness of the specifics of Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido technique. A careful study of Morihei’s art as seen in his films and photos will impart a deeper understanding of his techniques and intentions for aikido, and raise the bar to a much higher level for aikidoka today.
I would invite you to comment on the points I have raised, and offer your observations about training problems as you perceive them, and ways of improving the technical level of contemporary aikido.